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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Not to Go Quietly
If you are just a little bit lucky in life and in love someone will think of you as a "Venus" or a "David" (as in Michelangelo). And for better or worse Maurice (a terrific, sensitive, thoughtful performance by Peter O'Toole) feels this way about a young woman Jessie (Jodie Whittaker in a strong debut). And though at first Jessie resists the friendship and mentorship of...
Published on February 18, 2007 by MICHAEL ACUNA

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Desire and death....
Not the death of desire, which this film tells us is ever alive. The flashing blue Lawrence-eyes are rheumy; the always spare frame is now fragile; the striking handsomeness bears the marks of time and a life hard-lived; the once powerful voice an echo of itself. But Peter O'Toole the great actor, is still in there, strong and vital, and he brings dignity to a very...
Published on June 30, 2007 by Archmaker


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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Not to Go Quietly, February 18, 2007
By 
MICHAEL ACUNA (Southern California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If you are just a little bit lucky in life and in love someone will think of you as a "Venus" or a "David" (as in Michelangelo). And for better or worse Maurice (a terrific, sensitive, thoughtful performance by Peter O'Toole) feels this way about a young woman Jessie (Jodie Whittaker in a strong debut). And though at first Jessie resists the friendship and mentorship of Maurice she soon realizes that this man who offers his love and companionship, wants her in as selfless a manner as possible. Maurice is attracted to the youth, vigor and life in Jessie and she is attracted to his just slightly more than platonic attraction to her. Both Maurice and Jesse have agendas but they are not hidden as is usually the case in this type of lopsided relationship. Both are unabashedly upfront and without pretense.

Director Roger Michell and particularly writer Hanif Kureishi ("My Beautiful Launderette") are tackling some important ideas here: slightly more advanced platonic love (oddly stated but nothing is really clear-cut in this film), how we as a society tend to discard the over 60 generation, the possibility of physical love after 60 or 70 , how the fervent and physical love between young people often matures into deep friendship and respect but sometimes doesn't and more importantly how our friends can ease our path into old age.

Of special note here are the wonderful scenes between O'Toole and Vanessa Redgrave as his ex-wife and mother of his children. There is a palpable longing and regret in these scenes: these two know each other as no one else does and despite this they love each other with that special kind of love reserved for people who have seen and experienced each other's worst self.

"Venus" is a remarkable film about loss, love and about the possibilities of life after 40...if not 60, 70 and 80. Maurice adamantly refuses to "go gently into that good night" without a fight, a slug of Scotch, a bracing cup of Tea and a knowing wink to a pretty girl.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death in "Venus", May 26, 2007
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This review is from: Venus (DVD)
"Venus" is a parable about the inevitability of time and the impermanence of love. The story is a variation on the theme of the dying man, smitten with lost youth and opportunity, which is revived----ever-so-briefly----via the persona of a beautiful young creature. Thus the aging actor Maurice--played with subtle poignancy by Peter O'Toole--who is captivated by the attractive, but rough-about-the-edges niece of another old actor and friend, is reminiscent of the aging composer Aschenbach, who yearns for the beautiful and unobtainable young Tadziu in Visconti's "Death in Venice." "Venus," in fact, portrays the unsatisfactory scenario of what might have occurred had Aschenbach realized his relationship with Tadziu. Like "Venice," "Venus" connects Love with Death, who, cast in a cameo role, overtakes its protagonist on a lonely beach. Unlike "Venice," however, "Venus" casts no sunset glow on the death of the actor Maurice, whose exit is both lonely and ignominious--a dirty business with a catheter tube and bag strapped to his leg.

"Venus," however, is laced with laughter as well as tears, as when the two once-famous thespian friends make the rounds of their old London haunts, including a church with the memorial plaques to long-dead actors, such as Laurence Harvey. When Maurice notes that the church is running out of wall space for such commemorations, his friend Ian--played with equal professionalism by Leslie Phillips--tells him wistfully that "Ian" is a very short name. One of the most touching lines, though, comes when the two revisit their elegant Edwardian club--apparently frequented by actors--and Ian remarks that he loves coming to the place, because it reminds him so much of what he might have been.

The acting, as is to be expected from such a cast, which includes Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice's long-neglected but still-loved wife, is superb. Peter O'Toole has the remarkable ability to inflict a mortal wound to the heart with a mere look. The expression on his face hardly changes, but his inner passion is so heartfelt that he conveys his emotion effortlessly. O'Toole's performance demonstrates the bankruptcy of the Hollywood establishment, which has failed to acknowledge his artistry properly for these many years.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irresistible, March 12, 2007
This review is from: Venus (DVD)
The healing power of beauty is ageless. 'Venus' takes this theme all the way to the curtain call in the life of Morris Russell (Peter O'Toole). As a famous actor at the sunset of his life and career, his memory and desire are for beauty. This desire is rekindled when he meets his friend, Ian's, (Leslie Phillips) niece. Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), becomes for him that Venus, the ideal of female beauty. For the film to work and maintain its credibility, the mutual affection would have to suspend our disbelief. At first she ignores him as a boring, old codger--to the point of rudeness. That's realistic enough. But she does not merely reawaken his desire for feminine beauty that was at its zenith when he was a handsome young actor, he does for Venus what she desires. She wishes to be admired. Added to that his wit and charm, and he's the alternative to the limitations of virile--yet callow--youth. Besides they seldom know Shakespeare's sonnets, let alone are able to passionately quote them like he does. Theirs is a mutual arrangement. He spends money and time with her, and she gives him a marginal amount of space to enjoy her youthful effervescence. Each brings a measure of sweetness the other lacks. ("Do you believe in anything, Morris?" she asks. "Pleasure, I like," he replies, "I like to give pleasure.")

Indeed, when she doesn't prove to be dependable, there's still much for him to lean upon. Ian provides more than a commiserating "Grumpier Old Men" companionship. They both share the rage, laughter, and angst of life's final chapters. Their jokes make the film funny without detouring into cheap, dirty-old men routines. The humor only brings about our sympathy. Heartwarming and sadly funny, the friendship is as enduring as his legacy. (When he has a prostate operation, Ian asks why he didn't tell him. "I hate sympathy," he says. "You wouldn't have gotten any from me," Ian counters. "I know, you're a true friend," Morris replies.) Then, when Jessie isn't available, she stirs enough of his own desirability to rekindle an old flame. Valerie, played with realistic zest by Vanessa Redgrave, provides the power of love and forgiveness to ferment the mix.

Between O'Toole's Oscar nominated performance, and a story that makes the seemingly impossible real, `Venus' makes the whole exchange believable currency. 'Venus' does for romance what 'Rocky Balboa' did for boxing. It can be said that our youth and beauty worshipping culture often misses the boat and overlooks the wisdom and experience of the aged. `Venus' reminds us of what it is like to be articulate and romantic, a lesson sage in itself.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Desire and death...., June 30, 2007
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This review is from: Venus (DVD)
Not the death of desire, which this film tells us is ever alive. The flashing blue Lawrence-eyes are rheumy; the always spare frame is now fragile; the striking handsomeness bears the marks of time and a life hard-lived; the once powerful voice an echo of itself. But Peter O'Toole the great actor, is still in there, strong and vital, and he brings dignity to a very delicate piece about an old man's continuing desire for female beauty, and the life represented there, even on the precipice of eternity. And for that, this film is worth seeing.

O'Toole's Maurice feels mortality in every breath, and the indignities and infirmities of old age are present in every waking moment. He passes the time playing corpses in TV shows, and trading pills with his ancient friends. His has been a life lived selfishly, in service to his own pleasure, as is tellingly revealed in the very nice scene with his ex-wife, played by Vanessa Redgrave. The old ham finds infatuation with a rather fatuous young woman and this final dance with desire will bring some insight to the object of his affection and some final reflection to the old "player".

This is difficult material, an old man's lust or love for a young woman, but it was presented honestly in that both parties are using the other for their own purposes, until perhaps the end. If they are changed by one another, it is in subtle small ways, and while the ending may seem a bit too neat, the relationship limned before has been carefully constructed.

I found great care in the presentation, treading a fine line. It is a wistful film about final days and the heart's ever longing. Or, as Peter O'Toole says, it's about a dirty old man and a (trampy) young woman. It is both. Not for everyone, I found it worthwhile.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Peter O'Toole's Swan Song, January 19, 2007
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thornhillatthemovies.com (Venice, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
What more can be said about Peter O'Toole's career? Not a lot. The legendary actor has appeared in many great roles and many great films. Yes, even a number of flops, but every great director and actor has had their share. Every single one, even Hitchcock, my hero. But when he is `on', O'Toole is simply unmatched by anyone in his generation. Richard Burton was earlier, Ian McKellan and Anthony Hopkins would come later.

From the mid 60s, when he made an incredible debut in "Lawrence of Arabia" through "What's New Pussycat?", "The Lion In Winter" and up to "My Favorite Year", O'Toole has shown he is equally comfortable in drama, epic, comedy and historical drama. He can play it fast, loose and carefree or he can evoke historical figures with all of the thespian powers he employs, holding his own with Katharine Hepburn, Alec Guiness, Richard Burton and many more.

A few years ago, O'Toole received an honorary Oscar, perhaps the Academy's way of hedging their bets and acknowledging his remarkable career. They may have been a bit hasty. The actor's latest film "Venus" is bound to earn O'Toole a nomination for Best Actor.

O'Toole plays Maurice, an aging actor who now takes bit parts in soap operas, usually as a dying Uncle or Grandfather, to keep a little income coming in. He supports his ex-wife (Vanessa Redgrave) who is ill and still lives in their old, ramshackle, badly in need of repairs home and carries a torch for her husband. One day, his friend, Ian (Leslie Phillips), an aging actor who also carries a torch for Maurice, announces his niece will be coming to live with him, to help with his care and daily life. On Maurice's next visit, he meets the young lady, Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) and becomes entranced with her looks, her coarse manner, and her unvarnished view of the world. He also learns Ian can't stand her and feels invaded. Maurice happily sets about coming up with ways to get her out of the house, so he can enjoy her company.

"Venus" is a fun film to watch because we get to see O'Toole do what he does best. The role isn't a stretch; clearly written to provide a showcase for his abilities, Maurice could easily be O'Toole if the actor were less well-known and had made some bad career choices. O'Toole plays an elderly actor who once played some memorable roles but now spends more time enjoying a good drink. Sounds like a stretch, doesn't it?

Even though his body has aged and he may be a little slower, O'Toole commands our attention from the moment he first appears on screen. This is Maurice's story; his life, his loves, his friends. In telling the story of a short period of his life, we get a capsule of his entire life, we extrapolate the events we witness and fill in the rest of his life.

It is a bravura performance and a fitting crown for his remarkable career.

Writer Hanif Kureishi ("My Beautiful Launderette") and director Roger Michell ("Notting Hill") have done a good job of crafting a showcase for O'Toole's skill. Once the story gets going, they simply get out of the way, which is a good thing. The story is simple, uncomplicated and flows along pleasantly. If anything, this uncomplicated nature makes the film resemble a BBC presentation. It seems a little small, a little low budget, as though they were hedging their bets. In case the film didn't turn out as well, they could always just show it on the BBC and BBC America and recoup some of their investment. But because it did work, the project earned a theatrical release.

"Venus" presents an example of one of our best actors showing us why he has earned a lifetime of acclaim. It is a film worthy of your time and attention. Peter O'Toole demands your time and attention.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, March 25, 2007
This review is from: Venus (DVD)
A brilliant film. So very funny. So very human. Beautifully filmed and acted. Enter this world and spend time with these characters. They will inspire laughter, connection and passion.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bare Ruined Choirs, February 13, 2007
Peter O'Toole plays an aging actor Maurice ("he was gorgeous") in this little gem of a movie about old age and dying. He and his friend and sparring partner Ian (Leslie Phillips) spend a great deal of their time lamenting their fates and trying to keep one step ahead of the Grim Reaper as they wait to shuffle off this mortal coil. Their diminished hearts, particularly O'Toole's-- get an electrical shock when Ian's grand niece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) comes to care for him. This film derives much of both its humor and pathos from the strange but rather sweet relationship that develops between Maurice and Jessie.

VENUS is a small, intimate film that British directors seem to have practically a monopoly on these days. The lighting is beautiful, understated and low, completely perfect for a film about life in old age. Even at his advanced age, O'Toole remains magnificent, proving once again that he is one of the great actors of our age. Vanessa Redgrave as his ex-wife has a small but effective role with one of the best lines of the filme: "After you are dead, everyone loves you."

The last frame is VENUS is a beautiful and perfect ending to a really fine film. While this movie may not be for everyone, it probably should be.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great acting, debatable script., February 25, 2007
According to this morning's Washington Post, when fans ask Peter O'Toole what his new film "Venus" is about, he answers, "It's the story of a dirty old man and a young slut of a woman." Unfortunately, that description is right on target, and that is what makes it hard to care much about this film as a whole, although the acting is absolutely impeccable. O'Toole, who is seventy-four and looks even older, milks every conceivable ounce of humor, subtlety, depth and pathos from the character of Maurice Russell, an old actor whose life has marked similarities to O'Toole's own. Maurice has messed up his entire life by his inability to stop chasing every skirt he sees, but although he has some regrets, his randy spirit remains indomitable even as his body fails him. However, this still fails to explain his infatuation with Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), the sullen, selfish niece of a crotchety old actor friend (Leslie Phillips). Whittaker is a good actress, and though she's no great beauty, she has an interesting, almost Vermeer-like face, especially when photographed in the chiaroscuro lighting favored by director Roger Michell. But the character of Jessie is so unappealing--at least until the obligatory change of heart toward the end--that it's hard to understand why Maurice is so besotted with her, or to root for their relationship. Michell and his frequent collaborator, screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, are well-known for their ability to unsettle an audience, particularly in films like "The Mother." In "Venus," however, they mostly just annoy the audience, though again the performances by O'Toole and the others are enough to make the film worth seeing. Watch for a strong turn by Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice's ex-wife, who still loves him and depends on him even though she's not about to forgive him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Peter O'Toole said he was "still in the game" and he was not lying, August 10, 2007
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This review is from: Venus (DVD)
I keep wanting to think that Peter O'Toole won as Oscar for "Lawrence of Arabia)," but I know that he did not. When O'Toole was earning Oscar nominations for playing Henry II in "Becket" and "The Lion in Winter" there must have been an idea that sooner or later he was going to win an Academy Award. But after he was nominated for the seventh time in 1982 for "My Favorite Year" O'Toole tied Richard Burton for the dubious record of having the most Oscar nominations for Best Actor with at a win (Deborah Kerr holds the Best Actress record with six nominations and no wins). O'Toole was given an honorary Oscar in 2003, although he had written a letter to the academy saying he was "still in the game" and wanted more time to "win the lovely bugger outright." Any thoughts that O'Toole was engaging in wishful thinking were erased when his performance in "Venus" earned him his eighth nomination. Of course, O'Toole did not have the same sort of happy ending that Henry Fonda did with "On Golden Pond," since Forest Whitaker won for "The Last King of Scotland," but he certainly proved that in his 70s he still has "game."

In Roger Michell's 2006 film, O'Toole plays Maurice, an aging actor who is still respected, at least by those who remember him. That would not include Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), the 20-year-old daughter of the niece of Maurice's friend Ian (Leslie Phillips), another old school actor. Jessie would like to get into modeling and Maurice arranges for her to be nude model for an art class. But it turns out that part of Maurice's reasons for getting her this particular gig is that he would very much like to see Jessie naked. After an operation of his prostate Maurice is impotent, but he still has an appreciation for the female form. As he tells Jessie at one point, the most beautiful thing a man will ever see is the body of a woman. She wonders what would be the most beautiful thing a woman ever gets to see, and Maurice's answer rings true, but is clearly beyond her ken.

This film is the story of two people who fall in love, and while we have seen May-December relationships played out before they rarely treat physical contact and nudity in this way. Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, best known for 1985's My Beautiful Laundrette, focuses not on the sex, or absence thereof, but more on the ironic transformation from a young man who was adored by many a young girl, into an old man who has found one last young girl to adore as his personal "Venus." Part of it is that Jessie stands in stark contrast to Maurice's old friends and his ex-wife His Maurice banters with fellow thespian Ian (a terrific Leslie Phillips) and visits his ex-wife Valerie (Vanessa Redgrave). After decades of banter, even of the enjoyable kind between Maurice and Ian, there is much to be said for getting to look, even if getting to touch earns you a sharp elbow in a tender spot.

But in "Venus" everything comes back to O'Toole's performance, which offers a wide range of emotional shadings. Maurice is not only enamored with the crude Jessie, he is raging against the ravages of time, humiliated by his physical failings, and trying to keep together the last shreds of his dignity. In her film debut, Whittaker responds in kind, her youth and inexperience limiting the range of her reactions. In the final act of the film she finally gives Maurice a look at her naked breasts, but in that context it is not the exhibition that matters but the change in her voice, which speaks much more to the nature of their relationship. I have to say that I found O'Toole's performance to be more compelling and certainly more memorable than the one that won the Oscar earlier this year, but you know full well that a movie that grossed $3.3 million dollars (most of it in the wake of O'Toole's nomination) was never going to be seen by enough voters to win. The nomination itself seems like a miracle, that is, unless you have seen the film. Then it is no surprise at all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Little Film., May 29, 2007
This review is from: Venus (DVD)
One of the biggest travesties of 2006 is that "Venus" scored only one Oscar nomination; Best Actor for Peter O'Toole. O'Toole (who has never won an Oscar, but has an Honorary one) lost to Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland." This year reminded me of the year "Mystic River" came out. Sean Penn and Bill Murray (for "Lost in Translation") were nominated for Best Actor. Everyone knew Penn would win, but people were torn between the two. That's how I felt with O'Toole and Whitaker, even though I hadn't seen either film. Whitaker was going to win, but I wanted O'Toole to win. Now, having seen the film, I want O'Toole to win even more. And I want to go back in time and convince the Academy to give it a few more nominations, but I'll get to that in a moment. "Venus" seems like a romantic-comedy, but it's very offbeat. O'Toole plays an aging actor named Maurice, who spends his days joking about his imminent death with his friend Ian (Leslie Phillips). The duo know that death is near, they almost long for it, but they choose to spend their days drinking and joking. That is until Ian's niece decides to send her 20-something daughter to stay with Ian. What he's expecting is a young girl who will help him around the house, cook for him and serve him drinks. What he gets is Jessie (Josie Whittaker), a Cockney party-girl/alcoholic who lounges around the house and drinks all of Ian's alcohol. Ian avoids Jessie, but Maurice (once a womanizer) is intrigued by the young woman and begins courting her. Maybe that's not the right term, but he begins taking her to lunch and buying her stuff. She eventually begins using the fact that Maurice is fascinated with her to her advantage, but soon finds that their relationship is much deeper than that. Yeah, like I said, it's a little offbeat. Some reviews I've read have referred to the O'Toole character as a "dirty old man." That's pretty much what his character is and Maurice has no problem copping to that. This is not a powerhouse performance, but one of those low-key and charming performances that Bill Murray was nominated for. O'Toole is an absolute revelation here, even though he's arguably playing a version of himself. Vanessa Redgrave also shows up as his ex-wife and is quite good as well. I think the film should have been nominated for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Leslie Phillips), Best Supporting Actress (Jodie Whittaker), and Best Original Screenplay. The reason it wasn't nominated for these is because it's such a small film. O'Toole was a shoo-in and I have no doubt that many people who voted for him hadn't even seen the film. Not that he didn't deserve it, because of Forest Whitaker hadn't made "The Last King of Scotland" this would have definitely been Peter O'Toole's year. "Venus" isn't going to appeal to a massive amount of people. A Shakespeare quoting, late 70s-early 80s sex fiend of a man isn't the kind of protagonist that attracts a lot of people; But "Venus" is one of the best films of 2006, with some of the best performances of that year as well. It's charming, unique, poetic, and all around great. I believe it to be the 4th best film of 2006.

GRADE: A
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Venus
Venus by Roger Michell (DVD - 2007)
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